Number of concussions in England unacceptable, head injury specialist says

FILE PHOTO: Rugby Union - Premiership - Newcastle Falcons v Sale Sharks - St James' Park, Newcastle, Britain - March 23, 2019 General view of a ball during the warm up Action Images/Ed Sykes

(Reuters) - The frequency of concussions in English rugby is "totally unacceptable" and authorities must take further action to protect players, head injury specialist Willie Stewart said.

A study conducted by the Rugby Football Union (RFU) revealed that 166 concussions were recorded during matches in the Premiership's 2018-19 season, accounting for 20% of injuries suffered by players.

"One of the things that disappoints in professional rugby is the concussion, the brain injury level, is about one per match," Stewart said during a Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) session on head injuries in sport.

"England Rugby has been very good at monitoring the level of brain injury and that level of one per match has stayed the same for four or five years and that's an unacceptably high level.

"One in 30 players going off for a brain injury per match is totally unacceptable. It could be made a lot safer, there are things that could be done to reduce the risk."

Stewart also described football's trial of permanent concussion substitutes as a "shambles" and said the sport needed to follow rugby union's example where temporary substitutes are used while doctors assess a head injury.

"What football has introduced is a shambles in 2021," he said. "Rugby has made great developments, and that should be the model for other sports."

Concussions and their long-term effects have been in the spotlight since former players filed a class-action lawsuit against governing bodies World Rugby, the RFU and the Welsh Rugby Union alleging a failure to protect them from the risks.

(Reporting by Arvind Sriram in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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